Monday, May 10, 2010

A racist editorial from the News-Gazette

My fears that the yokel series would have to be put on hiatus after the revamping of the News-Gazette website removed their Letters to the Editor have abated. I'm loathe to use the word, but I can't really find any alternative to calling last Wednesday's editorial, "Car bomb may be another sign of change in tactics," racist.

Apparently, the editors learned all they need to know about the world watching James Bond movies, where all the evildoings of the world are masterminded by Osama bin Laden while he strokes his white cat and complains about the absence of sharks with laser beams on their heads.

The editorial was obviously inspired by the recent near-bombing in Times Square. This sentence basically sums up the thesis of the editorial:

This is, of course, but another event in the long-running effort by Middle Eastern terrorists to attack this country and kill civilians. But it also reflective of an ominous change in strategy.

Wait, strategy? I'm sorry, do "Middle Eastern" terrorists all have a bi-weekly meeting in Dubai where they get together for falafel and bomb-making seminars? No, there is no such unified group as "Middle Eastern terrorists" so they can't even have an overall strategy let alone shift their tactics. (I feel a bit like Alice pointing out that she hasn't had any tea, so she can't take more.) Such childlike, simplistic analysis is like claiming a "shift in musical style by blonde artists" because Lady Gaga is not Madonna.

After mentioning 9/11 (which will probably define "terrorism" in the minds of Americans forevermore) and the USS Cole bombing, both nearly a decade old now, here's the N-G's rationale for claiming a "shift in tactics" on the part of "Middle Eastern terrorists":

But starting with the shooting of members of the U.S. military at Fort Hood, Texas, terrorists' efforts have been simpler – most certainly deadly but less spectacular.

The Ford Hood shooting spree was followed by the attempted Christmas Eve destruction of an airliner by a single passenger carrying a bomb in his underwear and the attempted car bombing in New York City.

So the editors claim these dastardly Middle Eastern terrorists have changed their tactics based on three incidents: the Fort Hood shooting, the underwear bomber, and the failed Times Square bomb. There's just one problem.

None of these terrorists are Middle Eastern.

Nidal Malik Hasan, the accused Fort Hood shooter was born in Virginia. He went to school, college, and worked in his family's restaurant in Virginia. Then he did his medical school residency 250 miles away in Washington DC. Then he went to Fort Hood, Texas. I can't find anything that suggests he's ever left the country, let alone qualifies as a "Middle Easterner." He also has no ties to terrorist groups. So what qualifies him as a "Middle Eastern terrorist" other than the color of his skin?

Even more blatantly wrong is the N-G's claim that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is a Middle Easterner. He's from Nigeria. Just to put that in perspective, it's 4500 miles from Kabul, Afghanistan to Lagos, Nigeria. It's only 3500 miles from Washington, DC to London, England.

Now, the Times Square bombing suspect is a naturalized American citizen from Pakistan. (I think Pakistan is generally considered South Asia rather than the Middle East, but it's close, so I won't quibble.) It's still a bit sketchy at this point, but there's no Al Queso link even alleged, and the involvement by the Pakistani Taliban is fairly unclear. But it doesn't look like Shahzad has any ties to any group that has attacked the US before. Yet, the N-G lumps him in with all the other "terrorists."

There's one thing I find notably missing from the editorial: not a single mention of the (alleged) terrorist cell recently arrested on US soil, the Hutaree. This was a group that the United States Attorney's Office says were planning to target agents of the US government for assassination using weapons of mass destruction. So why is this not a "change in tactics" on the part of terrorists? Could it have something to do with the fact that the Hutaree are a bunch of white Christians from Michigan?

I don't expect local newspaper editors to be experts in foreign policy. But I don't think it's unreasonable to expect people that claim to be journalists to at least know that two of the three bombers they're talking about were born half the world away from the Middle East.

It's symptomatic of what the right-wing does all the time. They oversimplify fairly complex matters into black and white, Us and Them, white people and Scary Brown Terrorists. Such easy-to-swallow media narratives do probably make for better copy, but not true understanding of our complex and increasingly international world.

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